Out over the bay a dagger-winged jaeger made a sudden swoop and snatched a fish from a careless tern, leaving the complaining bird to flap disconsolately away for further hunting.Behind the Cloud
I don’t know how many times I read this sentence in Behind the Cloud without ever wondering, “What is a jaeger?” It’s clearly a bird, but how big? what color? what shape?
Here it is, a fast-flying relative of the sea gull:
A Chilkat blanket of goat’s hair in geometric designs of black, yellow and blue-green covered one wall.Behind the Cloud
Similarly, I made a mental picture of what a “Chilkat” blanket might be like–sort of a Pendleton wool design, I imagined–without seeking further information. But that was wrong, and although my imagined images functioned just fine for my enjoyment of the narrative, I missed out on the author’s full intention.
Emilie Loring wrote the serial story, “Behind the Cloud” for Woman’s Weekly in 1921. Her sons expanded the narrative for the 1958 novel by the same name. All three had been to Alaska. All three probably saw both jaegers and Chilkat blankets–although Emilie likely had a more reliable memory of them than her sons, who were only boys at the time.
This is my oft-repeated mantra, gained from my professorial understanding of human learning and memory and since applied, philosophically, to the nature of our experience here on earth. It’s been the purpose of this whole blog, really–to learn more about Emilie Loring’s life and the backgrounds of her books, to better appreciate her as a human being and to more richly enjoy the stories she left us.
It’s both amusing and satisfying, then, when I notice new things in narratives so very familiar to me.
The dinner was Mexican from soup to dessert…Behind the Cloud
When did this line hop into the book?! Emilie Loring, the Bostonian, and Mexican food? I am sure this was a contribution from her sons. In the 1950s when the book was completed, Robert’s son Victor lived in Los Angeles and his new bride, Julie, was of Mexican ancestry.
Delight could read in blood-red capital letters—MURDER BY MOONLIGHT.Behind the Cloud
From the 1960s on, there are several books with this thoroughly unoriginal title–two with “blood red” lettering on their covers–but Behind the Cloud was published in 1958, and before then, I have only found a made-for-radio Sherlock Holmes story by that name. Let me know, if you find another.
I had better luck with Sydney Laurence.
The girl’s eye was finally caught and held by a painting above the long bookcase which nearly filled one end of the room. Once glimpsed, the flaming swirl of grays, magenta and luminous green could hardly be ignored…
“Alaska is proud of Sydney Laurence. I consider that one of his best efforts at pinning an impossible subject on prosaic canvas.”Behind the Cloud
Laurence painted the northern lights many times, but this example was completed before 1921 when Emilie was writing her serial story. Notice the “magenta and luminous green” of Lighted Windows‘ original cover art (1930), another Alaska story. (Isn’t it so much prettier than the faded book cover?!)
I don’t know how much this next example says about Emilie Loring or her times, but I learned something new by investigating this casual description that I hadn’t noticed before.
The kitchen was vastly improved, she felt, by the candy-striped gingham curtainsBehind the Cloud
Striped gingham curtains? Doesn’t gingham mean “checked?” As a longtime seamstress myself, I had to know.
Here’s Jake Gallagher for GQ: “The truth is that gingham does not mean check or checked, it actually means striped. But, when you’re dealing with a fabric that’s over five hundred years old… naturally some things do get lost in translation. ‘Gingham’ comes from the Malayan word genggang, or ‘striped.’ The way we identify gingham, as being a contrasting-check shirt, was not the way in which the fabric was originally known. True gingham is distinguished primarily for being a ‘dyed in the yarn’ fabric, meaning the yarn is dyed before it is woven. Secondly, gingham is marked by having the colored yarns (the warp) going against the uncolored yarns (the weft), to create a lightweight texture on both faces, meaning it’s essentially reversible… As the fabric made its journey into the Western world, it retained its name, but lost its once signifying stripes.”
Good to know! I’ll think of gingham differently now–with apologies to Emilie Loring for doubting her.
These little forays were fun, but there’s plenty of bona fide reading pleasure to be had in Behind the Cloud. The description of Bill Mason is trademark Emilie:
She admired his clean-cut face, the direct look of the gray eyes and inflexible decision of the handsome mouth, even the obstinate kink in his dark hair. His hands fascinated her, their strength felt when he saved her from falling, their look of dependability. Good hands to cling to in an emergency.
As are these bits of dialogue:
“Corporal Simmons never blew a sweeter horn!” he complimented. “Put him down for another stripe, Sergeant. We ought to ante up for perfection when we find it!”
Her smile drifted impartially from one pair of watching eyes to another; dramatically she proclaimed: “A toast! I give you himself—the man I left behind me.”
“You know I’m nothing if not spectacular in my taste in jewelry…”
Spilled pies in Emilie’s serial story (1921) were adapted to spilled beets in Hilltops Clear (1933). I would like to see the full, original treatment, though. Dee Tremaine is missing Prue Schuyler’s sense of humor, and I have a hard time believing that Emilie wrote it that way. Fury? Impotence? I don’t think so.
“Oh! O-o-h–” No expletive she knew was strong enough to fit her fury and she rocked back and forth in speechless impotence. . .
“I dropped my pies—my beautiful pies!” she moaned and pointed forlornly. “Right on the floor!” Mason burst into a roar of relieved laughter. “And I thought you’d severed an artery, at the very least!” He patted her shoulder with comforting gentleness. “Cheer up, no one can accuse you of crying over spilt milk.”Behind the Cloud
Ruby liquid flew in all directions. It dripped from walls and ceiling; it splashed the white frock; it trickled in crimson rivulets down Prue’s cheeks… For an instant she stood in dazed consternation, then as she saw her face reflected in a small mirror, she laughed.
“Oh, you demon can–can–” The words choked into a spasm of mirth. She sank to a chair, dropped her head to her arms flung out on the table, and tried to control the peals of laughter which shook her…
“Nothing more serious than canning beets, Dave.”
“You look as if you’d been caught in an explosion of red corpuscles.”Hilltops Clear
On the problematic side, Behind the Cloud contains unforgivably awful passages about the Tlingit characters. I only have a portion of the original serial story, and it sheds no light on whether these portions were written by Emilie Loring or by her sons. Their tone and attitude seem unlike Emilie and more consistent with passages we’ve seen in others of the ghostwritten books.
I am more confident in assigning to the Loring sons the twenty-plus paragraphs of extended fuss over Delight changing into the blanket “dress” that Bill Mason makes for her.
“I’m designing a new dress for you.” At her indignant protest he grinned. “Don’t fly off the handle, pal. You certainly can’t spend the night in those soaked clothes…”
“Put on that dirty old thing? Never!” Delight gasped. “It makes me itch to even think of it! I’m perfectly comfortable as I am,” she told him decidedly. Although this was flirting with the truth she felt that she put enough frost in her voice to end the discussion.
… “Get this, Dee, and get it fast! You’re not going to sleep in those wet clothes. Either you take them off and climb into this, or I’ll be forced to do it for you. Period!”
“You wouldn’t!” Furious, she sprang to her feet…
What tyrants military men became! Did he imagine for one minute that he could make her put on that ridiculous blanket? …Behind the Cloud
Julie Lorraine in Here Comes the Sun! has better sense and a better sense of humor:
He pulled out some blankets, then produced a woolly dressing-gown. “Take off that wet Martharine and put this on,” he commanded in a tone which proclaimed that he was prepared to assist in carrying out his orders if necessity arose. A faint smile flashed behind the weariness in the girl’s eyes.
“Sheathe your sword. I surrender. Of course I will get out of these wet things. I am not quite without common sense even if my previous actions so indicate.”Here Comes the Sun!
Emilie’s sons worked hard to continue her string of successful novels, and Behind the Cloud was produced without the assistance of Elinore Denniston, their usual ghostwriter. It stands on its own as an absorbing story with both action and mystery. Characteristically, the book contains references to “The Mikado,” Rudyard Kipling, “toothsome” pies, and The Pickwick Papers. Like every Emilie Loring novel, there is a reference to Alice in Wonderland.
“It’s always a shock, like Alice in Wonderland suddenly finding the Cheshire Cat grinning from a most unexpected place.”Behind the Cloud
Do you know what they left out?